The Hefty brothers, Darren and Brian, are the hosts of Ag PhD, a radio and television news show concentrating on agriculture, the industry they said is the most important in the world. Ag PhD and the Hefty brothers will have the company’s first-ever float in the Tournament of Roses Parade paying homage to the people who make the agriculture industry thrive.
The float, Salute to Farmers, will be one of the parade’s largest in this year’s event, which is themed “Making a Difference.” The float will feature 100 riders to illustrate the fact that agriculture is not the buzz words that frequent social media but the people who make it possible for the United States to have the most abundant, safest, and most affordable food supply in the world.
“I think farmers need more recognition for that,” Brian Hefty said. “What I read a lot of times in the media is negative things about agriculture. Still, we’re doing a fantastic job in this country. We have dramatically reduced erosion, we have dramatically reduced the amount of nutrients it takes per bushel of crop to produce. We’ve done so many great things over the past 20, 30, or 40 years, and we’re going to continue.”
California’s Tournament of Roses Parade, Hefty said, is truly an agricultural parade, featuring floats covered with plant material. It is, he said, the perfect stage to honor farm families.
“When everybody talks about agriculture anymore, I hear a lot of talk about GMOs, pesticides, food safety, and water quality,” he said. “I don’t hear a lot about it’s just families trying to feed families.”
It is these hard-working families that make up farms, and Hefty hopes to highlight a few. He points out that fewer and fewer Americans are involved in production agriculture and most consumers are at least one generation removed from the farm or ranch, making it an ideal time to pay tribute to the families feeding other families.
In the 20 years Ag PhD has been in existence and the many years in agriculture prior to that, the Hefty family has made numerous connections within the industry. Research and development has opened numerous doors, allowing the families to know one another and allowed the riders to be selected, in part, for their role in production agriculture.
Among the 100 riders, or 100 Farmers Making a Difference, is Mike Denton of Princeton, Illinois. Denton recalls helping his family farm when he was 7 years old, and the family farmed roughly 500 acres when farming was more physical than mental. Denton, who still lives in the same house on the same land as his great-grandfather, acknowledges the advancements made in agriculture but said his family’s focus remains the same — feeding more people while protecting the environment.
Unlike Denton, Casey Krush, 32, of Wilton, North Dakota, is a second-generation farmer raising durham wheat, corn, and pinto beans. Krush places a great deal of emphasis on optimal soil condition and working closely with his agronomist to help take the risk out of farming.
Alex Yaggie, 29, is representing the dwindling number of young farmers. Alongside his grandpa, uncles, brother, and cousin, Yaggie works on acreage near the homestead of Breckenridge, Minnesota, and near Thief River Falls, Minnesota. They grow malt barley, wheat, corn, soybeans, corn, sugar beets, and edible beans.
“The numbers are getting smaller; there are fewer and fewer younger farmers every year,” Yaggie said. “The average age right now is 58 to 60. My generation doesn’t know the difference between a combine and a tractor or a soybean and an edible bean plant.”
The younger men on the Yaggie operation are moving it forward toward precision practices while still enjoying the wealth of knowledge made available through the two generations that came before them.
Many of the farmers who will be riding the float hope the platform will allow the public to see the personal side of farming and a closer look at the families who make it all happen.
The float will be approximately 110 feet long and 18 feet wide. At its peak, it will rise 30 feet in height. The float designers have been actively collecting seed and their goal is to procure seed from all 50 states and thousands of farms. The seed, depending on color, will be included in the float design.
“When else can you take something from your farm and get it on a Rose Parade float?” he said.